The cornerstone of our program is our strong academic program. Gateway provides a curriculum that follows the Texas recommendations for high school graduation. Teachers meet students at their current academic level and enable them to advance at their own maximum pace.
Our students receive instruction in a small group setting led by our learning specialists. Additionally, we are equipping students with the necessary organization, technology, and executive function skills to develop independence throughout their life. This program is enriching our students in the classroom through the development of study skills, in our community through community service projects, and in their daily lives by building a well-defined vision of their future.
Our goal is to give our students the skills to graduate from Gateway Academy with a diploma in hand, ready to tackle college or work endeavors. Gateway teachers come to us ready to teach with an expertise in their field and a heart for our students.
Gateway Academy’s solution-focused program is specifically designed to help students in a school setting. The counselor links the benefits of the group setting with solution-focused approaches to help students identify their strengths and abilities to solve their concerns. Gateway’s counseling program is set up to complement outside therapy and recommendations of independent counselors. We coach the students in their classroom setting, in small groups and at times during individual sessions. Our goal is to give the students the tools necessary to demonstrate academic and social confidence.
- Self-Knowledge and Acceptance
- Interpersonal and Communication Skills
- Responsible Behavior and Personal Responsibility
- Conflict Resolution
- Decision Making
- Self-Care and Self-Management
Social Communication is a daily class provided to all students at Gateway Academy. The emphasis of the Social Communication class is to help students understand social cues (and the “hidden rules”) and share space with peers and adults more appropriately. Lessons target many social cognitive skills including inferencing, perspective taking, executive functioning, problem-solving, social observation, and conversational skills, which aim to help them better connect with others. Students are active participants in reaching their targeted goals, and components of self-evaluation and peer feedback are incorporated.
GOAL SETTING AND SUPPORT
Goal setting at Gateway is part of our typical mindset. Teaching our teenagers to set goals effectively can be life-changing. However, as we teach goal-setting to our children, we need to make sure we’re showing them how to use goals to have the greatest possible positive impact on their lives. When tackled correctly, effective goals for students out of their comfort zone and help them to grow more than without those goals. And, perhaps most importantly, goals give our students control of their destiny. Just by setting a goal, they are taking an active role in driving new and better results in their life. Self-advocacy and self-determination skills are built as they make, keep, and adjust their goals.
“Exercise turns on the attention system, the so-called executive functions — sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention,” says Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (Little, Brown). “On a practical level, it causes kids to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.”
Research shows that physical activity sparks real, positive changes in the brain that increase attention and improve mood. What’s more, exercise is an inexpensive, self-prescribed, and accessible supplemental treatment option for adults and children with ADHD. When a person exercises, the brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters, including dopamine, which help with attention and clear thinking. People with ADHD often have less dopamine than usual in their brain. The stimulant medicines that are often used to treat ADHD work by increasing the availability of dopamine in the brain. So, it makes sense that a workout can have many of the same effects as stimulant drugs.
Fitness can have the following benefits for adolescents with ADHD:
- Ease stress and anxiety.
- Improve impulse control and reduce compulsive behavior.
- Enhance working memory.
- Improve executive function. That’s the set of skills needed to plan, organize, and remember details.
- Increase levels of a protein involved in learning and memory.
There is no argument that exercising is important to living a long and healthy life. Research indicates that exercise serves to build stamina, increase attentiveness, develop coordination skills, and suppress anxiety. Each morning our entire community begins with “Fit Club”. We participate in team sports, running, weight lifting, balance, and aerobic activities to develop healthy daily patterns of fitness that will carry into adulthood. Exercise serves as one of their chief tools for self-regulation, which results in increased potential and growth.
Our experience has shown that the therapeutic benefits of physical activity support their growth in the classroom. The underlying philosophy is that if fitness class can be used to instruct kids on how to monitor and maintain their own health and fitness, then the lessons they learn will serve them for life.
Our students join our staff each day in engaging fitness classes such as running, basketball, strength training, balance, circuit training, Taekwondo, and pilates. We encourage the students to monitor their own heart rate and to keep their physical activity at a level that maintains 80% of their maximum heart rate. We have found that those students who come to school tired are more alert, attentive, and prepared for the day after Fit Club. Our research has shown that the therapeutic benefits of physical activity support students’ abilities to attend and thrive in the classroom.
The Fit Club initiative, born out of the science of exercise as a behavior management technique has been an enormous success. Each morning students will sweat, push their cardiovascular systems, and learn to rely on exercise as one of their chief tools for self-regulation. This fitness program focuses on supporting the relationship between food, physical activity, and personal and academic management. With each student participating in activities that alternatively emphasize balance, strength, flexibility, and endurance. We have seen a marked improvement both in student self-management and confidence.
Internships & Job Skills
Research reports that young adults with learning and social issues find it difficult to make three significant changes in transition without immersive support. The opportunities associated with seeking independent residence, gaining employment, and attending post-secondary education, are typically experienced as daunting and a basis for failure to make a successful transition to early adult life. This is why an alarming number of high school graduates with social and learning differences “fail to launch” and find themselves living at home with parents, unemployed, and squandering the skills and opportunities utilized by their neuro-typical peers. The toll of this cycle presents a drain on their family, public assistance resources, and their own sense of self-worth.
Gateway Juniors and Seniors are exposed to numerous training opportunities including intern positions in retail stores, restaurants, local schools, healthcare facilities, fitness centers, and elder care services. This process also allows students to develop work-related social skills through interactions with coworkers, customers, and managers.
Gateway Academy prepares students for success after graduation with continued education, employment integration into the community, and ultimately a career. We provide 24 weeks of internship placement for our seniors with coaching and guidance support to ensure understanding and enhance success.
Our goal is to connect with more businesses and corporations willing to provide these opportunities for our students. We continue to add committed partnerships in and around the Greater Houston Area to give Gateway students the vocational aptitudes and skills needed to prosper in a changing world.
Our seniors graduate with a diploma, 24 weeks of internship placement, and part-time job experience!
My Day Café
Gateway has an equipped on-site kitchen to facilitate My Day Café, a program developed at the Gateway Academy. My Day Café teaches kitchen and cooking skills, aspects of teamwork in a restaurant/hospitality setting, and the basics of project management.
Chefs from around the city come to demonstrate cooking skills, teach our students kitchen protocol, and encourage them to try new things! The students learn cooking, budgeting, food prep, kitchen safety, and event planning in this class. As the students learn kitchen basics, appropriate relationship skills are formed as they work on specific projects. Each student takes on the roles of Project Manager, Sous Chef, Dishwasher, Budgeter, and Cleaning Supervisor. As they experience each role, they learn to negotiate, manage, organize, and work as a team. This program prepares them for the Internship and Job Acquisition phases of our program.
Gateway is committed to ensuring that all our graduates leave with appropriate financial acumen, so students are equipped to handle basic financial skills they will need to manage their earnings and pay bills associated with independent living. Upperclassmen take a Personal Finance course full of financial planning, costs of independent living, and budgeting. Bankers, real estate agents, accountants, and store managers bring their expertise to the classroom during class lectures, business visits/tours, and activities that facilitate deep learning. As they secure a part-time job in the community, the financial learning is tied directly to their paycheck earnings and withholdings.
Many of our more savvy math students take Advanced Finance. This class gives them an understanding of the financial community and how the world economy impacts them personally. These students engage in trading stocks and following the Markets.
Part Time Job Acquisition
Young adults with autism had lower employment rates and higher rates of complete social isolation than people with other disabilities, according to a report published in 2015 by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute. Two-thirds of young people with autism had neither a job nor educational plans during the first two years after high school. For over a third of young adults with autism, this continued into their early 20s, the report found. Young adults with autism were less likely to be employed than their peers with other disabilities, with 58 percent employed. In comparison, 74 percent of young people with intellectual disabilities, 95 percent with learning disabilities, and 91 percent with a speech impairment or emotional disturbance were employed in their early 20s.
Young adults with learning and social differences often end up dependent upon their families or the state for support as adults because they have not been given the opportunity to develop the skills needed to hold a job commensurate with their intellectual functioning. Gateway works closely with every student to ensure that he or she develops the skills necessary to become productive citizens and to transition successfully to life as an adult. Many of our students will continue their education in a college environment or vocational training program, while others will focus on work in the community; all graduating students will be prepared to have the social and vocational skills to be independent and successful in an appropriate learning or career setting.
Gateway expects each member of the senior class to obtain and hold a part-time job before graduation. These jobs are acquired by the student. The staff supports the student in the search, application process, and interview process but does not make the connection. After participating in the My Day Café, Personal Finance, and Internship programs, each Gateway Senior is equipped for the part-time work world! Our team then supports the student as they adjust to the job requirements and expectations through onsite student coaching, company management coaching, and consistent evaluation. Gateway students are holding part-time jobs at Kroger, Office Depot, the YMCA, the Upholstery Shop, Home Depot, and other area businesses. Our seniors graduate with a diploma and part-time job experience!
At Gateway, students follow a typical High School Graduation Plan. Our students take courses as they prepare for college and the workforce upon graduation. Our main focus is on traditional academic courses and meeting the expectations of graduation requirements. Additionally, Gateway focuses on building relationships, supporting internship and job skills, and improving self-regulation skills through Fitness.
All students take the following list of courses:
- English- 4 credits
- Science- 4 credits
- Math- 4 credits
- History- 3 credits
In addition to these courses, Gateway students select from a list of electives and endorsements to meet graduation requirements for the state of Texas.
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